SOUND OFF: GLEE Goes Horror Show
This week we are taking a listen to the soundtrack for the forthcoming ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW homage ala GLEE with a rundown of the second season of the hit Golden Globe-winning musical dramedy series and how it stacks up to last season. Additionally, we take a peek at one of the most famous musicals numbers from the cult classic score - "Time Warp" featuring all of the central Glee club cast-members of the show, among them Lea Michele, Cory Monteith, Dianna Agron and Chris Colfer. The soundtrack also contains a special appearance by John Stamos - late of Broadway's recent BYE BYE BIRDIE, and the other Roundabout revivals of NINE and CABARET - who sings the song made famous by a then unknown Meat Loaf in 1975 who will be making an appearance himself on the episode when it airs October 26th on Fox. So, come up to the lab and see what's on the slab a whole week early as we take a peak at the soundtrack and some special video clips from THE ROCKY HORROR GLEE SHOW.
Move Me, Chill Me, Fulfill Me
Few musicals achieve the iconic status of THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW. True, that is almost entirely due to the Jim Sharman film version of the Richard O'Brien pre-punk/rock showpiece, but the 2000 Broadway revival starring Tom Hewitt, Raul Esparza, Daphne Rubin Vega, Alice Ripley and Jarrod Emick - with narration and opening monologue courtesy of none other than revered television host Dick Cavett - proved the show could provide a fun and frivolous divertissement onstage under a guise wholly different than the camp trappings of the 50s B-level horror movie parodying in the film version. Director Christopher Ashley sure devised some thrilling effects along with scenic designer David Rockwell - the seats! The TV screens! The bodies in the wallpaper! - and Raul Esparza was certainly electric in his Broadway debut along with Tom Hewitt creating a totally new, but equally valid, take on Frank N Furter - but casting too much against type can cause trouble given the images and moments so hard-wired into our pop culture brains from the famous midnight movie and its many millions of late-night TV showings in the intervening thirty-five years since its release (and immediate initial failure) in movie theaters in the US. The rest, of course, is history - midnight showings, cult classic, worldwide productions and even a film sequel - but perhaps the most instantly intriguing combustion of pop culture as far as ROCKY HORROR lore goes is given its gaudy glory by the merry band of Gleeks of McKinley High on GLEE. We'll conduct a full physical examination of the patient of this week's critical procedure soon enough, but first let's do some minor surgery on what has worked - and move on from what didn't - so far on the occasionally uneven - but never uneventful - and increasingly innovative second season of GLEE.
One Small Fraction Of The Main Attraction
While more than thirty-five songs will have been performed on the second season of GLEE by the time THE ROCKY HORROR GLEE SHOW finishes its fabulous Floor Show on October 26th, there will have been more variety in performers, production, content and casting than in almost the entire first phase of the first season of the show combined (background for those unaware: GLEE first aired an initial 13 episodes and then took a break and aired the second batch of episodes, called "the back nine", in the Spring of this year). After all, in just five episodes we have had an artist tribute ("Brittany/Britney"), a collaboration celebration ("Duets"), as well as many stellar showpieces for the main cast-members - with Harry Shum, Jr. getting a chance to dance more and even sing (A CHORUS LINE's "Sing") as well as Naya Rivera and Heather Morris given much, much more to do, and always delivering with their fierce and funny quirks (especially the Britney/Madonna "Me Against The Music") - and ample material for new cast-members Charice and Chord Overstreet - all of this and a musical-movie-tribute/recreation episode timed perfectly to coincide with Halloween. So, before THE ROCKY HORROR GLEE SHOW scares up some new fans for the increasing-popular worldwide phenomenon of a TV series, these are some of the highlights of the second season as it stands so far following our exhaustive SOUND OFF Round-Up of all the songs and soundtracks of GLEE: Season One. The what/who/why and hows, if you will, of GLEE: SONGS OF THE SECOND SEASON (SO FAR) is here before you:
"What I Did For Love" - Lea Michele
One of the most elegantly filmed sequences on the show since the ballet "Total Eclipse of the Heart" early last season, Michele scores with the CHORUS LINE anthem while toeing the line between the dual-meanings of the Ed Kleban lyrics. Idina Menzel, Michele's mother on the show, recently performed the song with its Oscar-winning composer Marvin Hamlisch on the spectacular White House IN PERFORMANCE concert and it would be divine to hear the two Ms take on "At The Ballet" in the future (maybe with Ms. Chenoweth to hit that last note since it is a trio, after all?). Once again, this song proves Michele is one of the best voices on Broadway - or in entertainment - today and nobody does it better.
"Papa, Can You Hear Me?" - Lea Michele
While no one will ever touch Ms. Streisand on this Michel Legrand/Bergmens musical monologue from the movie-musical YENTYL, Michele has wrought every ounce of passion, pathos and prayerful reverie from its sinuous strains given the context the song was given on the show - and even not. Stirring. Soulful. Soothing.
One of the most pleasant surprises this season has been discovering the seriously impressive riffing and scratchy r&b style that Rivera imbues to her material, as we will see here and in the next highlighted selection from GLEE: S2. We've known all along Riley can bust a vocal move (to turn a phrase on her ferocious S1 introductory song "Bust A Move") and with a big, big song such as this she can blast and wail like the best Effie Whites - but the true pleasure. as revealed on repeat plays, comes in Rivera's harmonies. The same is also true for the next track, the best of the Britney Spears episode, but these two done Tina Turner proud with "Proud Mary". Too bad the show version was so shortened. It's available here, in all its glory, as are all 35 tracks of Season Two, on iTunes.
You can't please everyone, and the dicey, dangerous proposition of a duet with two mega super-stars like Britney Spears and Madonna proved somewhat lackluster at the time of its release to many critics - but here in this new, playful context the song reveals itself to be more intoxicating - and, unquestionably, a challenge to conquer - than it seemed at first listen in the early 00s. Rivera and Morris nail the sexual tension and frisky flirtations implicit in the lyrics and also convincingly pull off the near-rap patter of the sprinting verses and staccato, stop-and-start chorus of the techno jam making it one of the strongest vocal showdowns on the show so-far by members of the glee club at the core of the show.
This year's Grammy-winning Pop Duet written by Jason Mraz and Colbie Callait is the very definition of pop confection perfection as far as frothy love duets go and one could not ask for a cuter couple to sing the sweet and syrupy lyrics of this all-too heart-warming and instantly infectious ditty. Overstreet and Agron are absolutely ideal both physically and vocally to do this sort of surfers-at-sunset, stars-in-their-eyes guitar-strummer so it is a credit to their vast abilities that they manage to make the song sentimental but not the least bit saccharine and also forge their own sonic paths - which itself is hard to do given the idiosyncratic vocal styling of the original creators and interpreters of this luscious, lovely song. GLEE is lucky indeed to have such a strong new asset in Overstreet.
Speaking of inimitable and incomparable, let's address this right off the bat: No one will ever be Judy Garland or Barbra Streisand. Ever. No one will probably ever come close to their sheer magnetism, talent and popular sway over - and impact on - a culture. All that being said, Michele and Colfer prove they have great taste in this wink-in-one-eye/tear-in-the-other (but never, ever tongue-in-cheek) take on perhaps the greatest female duet in music history. The allure of GLEE is that it provides well-sung, informed alternatives (and to much of its audience, introductions) to the greatest songs and most iconic musical moments of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries so the inclusion of this number is a milestone for the show and the way the creators have chosen to cast and present it is a stroke of sheer genius.
Highlights Coming Up in THE ROCKY HORROR GLEE SHOW:
"There's A Light" - Lea Michele & Cory Monteith & Cast
"Whatever Happened To A Saturday Night?" - John Stamos
"Touch-A Touch-A Touch Me" - Jayma Mays & Cast
Creatures of the Night
All of the ROCKY HORROR songs will be contextualized in the format set forth for the episode by the creators so any suppositions or assumptions made about what is to come visually are merely derived from the content of the album as it is plain to hear. The casting is more befitting than may at first meet the brain and eye - and other parts. But, one thing is for sure: your ear will be pleased. Just taking a listen to the vocals, casting and content of the album is more than enough to call it a win given the care that the cast and creators have obviously taken in this - and, as THE POWER OF MADONNA and BRITNEY/BRITTANY proved, all their homage episodes - and in all of the best moments of the show so far, of which it seems clear THE ROCKY HORROR GLEE SHOW is one. The seven songs of the album explore the strange universe of the show (and subsequent film) just enough to satisfy the die-hard fans without wearing out their welcome, but never overloading the episode with unnecessary medleys or snippets in an attempt to get everything in, since so many moments are so quotable and quite queerly now near-quotidian (given the bizarre nature of the story and style) in the pop culture landscape in 2010. Word on the street is that the episode has so impressed executives that Murphy may bring a full-blown ROCKY HORROR remake to the big screen. He has certainly has found some super-fine specimens for Brad and Janet (and Eddie)!
"Science Fiction, Double Feature" is stupendous, in no small part due to Naya Rivera's slinky vocals. Lea Michele makes a pleasingly perky and pretty-sounding Janet Weiss, plaintive in "Dammit, Janet" and powerful and emotive in "There's A Light". Too bad this Brad and Janet didn't do "Super Heroes" because they prove on these selections that they truly are. Cory Monteith - somewhat shockingly - shows some of his strongest singing and most at-ease duetting with Ms. Michele since the very first episode's now near-legendary "Don't Stop Believing" behind the geeky glasses of Brad Majors in the two introductory duets before the bacchanal of the the castle. "There's A Light" is their best duet since "Don't Stop Believing". While it will always be impossible to capture the naiveté and puppy-love sloppy sweet slobberring of the film version's yearning and young Barry Bostwick and Susan Sarandon, Michele and Monteith make their material together more moving and sincere than it probably should be given the oh-so-cynical and camp source material and this meta-musical take on it (and ROCKY HORROR itself). Speaking of the previous Brad and Janet, it has been confirmed Bostwick will appear on the episode and Sarandon has been rumored to be making an eleventh-hour cameo. "There's A Light" is one of the strongest musical moments in the show as it stands on this soundtrack, building to a quite spine-tinglingly-thrilling climax after its creepy and disturbingly disjointed prelude. Chris Colfer is a magnetic Riff Raff and he and Dianna Agron make a delicious pair of Transsexual Transylvanians. The most controversial casting of the episode will undoubtedly reveal itself to be Amber Riley as Frank N Furter but her "Sweet Transvestite" is more persuasive - if more BJ Crosby and less PJ Harvey - than this reviewer antici - wait for it! - pated it would be. I'm still not sure it completely works, but perhaps while lulled under the hypnotic, magic spell of the show it will be the revelation it could potentially prove to be given the 360 turnaround take on the transvestite doctor done Aretha-style. Since "The Sword of Damocles" is not one of the songs from ROCKY HORROR that made the cut, Chord Overstreet seems to have to settle for being gold-clad eye-candy and leaving the rest of the heavy vocal lifting to the others, which is a shame since he could have done a frisky Jonas Brothers-type take on that very Jerry Lee Lewis-esque rocker. Maybe in the movie remake?
Speaking of rock n rollers - and people who should be considered for a film remake if it does indeed come to fruition - never fear, John Stamos is here, and reappears following his role as the dentist in the Britney Spears tribute to take on the mantle of Meat Loaf and the aborted aberration known as Eddie. Meat Loaf, of course, originally played Eddie in the stage and screen versions of ROCKY HORROR, but sometimes-Beach-Boy Stamos actually manages to make the feverish rock-out number all his own. That's no small feat - and no small jeans to fill (no matter how tight). Sure, the auto-tune makes him sound eerily like John Cameron Mitchell at times, but he more than carries off the song and his energy and enthusiasm is such that he could be the second season's answer to, now, two-time-Emmy-winning Neil Patrick Harris (for last year's Tony Awards and his show-stopping GLEE-ppearance). I smell a power balled hard rocker ala Aerosmith's "Dream On" for Stamos and Morrison coming soon! Or, so we may hope! More than any of the other performers as represented on this short soundtrack - and, as pointed out earlier, all are unique in their portrayals while giving a wink to the weird world of the original - Stamos seems to embody the 50s rapscallion devil-may-care James Dean-ish attitude and intention of O'Brien's original conception of THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW and his participation in this soundtrack is one of the two ripe blood-red cherries on this ghoulish GLEE sundae. The other belongs to Jayma Mays - finally revealing her full promise and potential as she did in her initial audition for the show, since she sang this very same song - the incredibly apropos, given her hypochondriacally hysterical character, the bud-to-blossom sexual empowerment girl-group-er "Touch-A Touch-A Touch Me". The only major misstep of the show as it stands on disc is the assumed-to-be-forced (by Fox) censorship of "Sweet Transvestite" and "Touch-A", but such is the case with the film on television, as well (unless it runs as TV-MA). Especially with the tracks from Mays and Stamos - and, Hell (pun intended), all in all, the whole bloody affair - you are left singing and shrieking (with delight) like Janet, "I've tasted blood and I want more / More, more, more!"
Also, be sure to check out the official music video of "Time Warp" from THE ROCKY HORROR GLEE SHOW below to get first look at the salacious sights and scary sounds about to abound on October 26th sure to set the stage for a spooky and spectacular Halloween!